Wow. The Walk. If you follow us on social media, you’ll know the week before last I walked 78 miles along the Thames Path. 78 MILES! That’s 125km. That’s three marathons in three days. That’s a crazy, crazy long way. I didn’t realise how long a way it was.
I walked it with Paul – a work colleague who organised the walk as part of a charity week our work does every year. Then every day, other colleagues and friends and partners would join us, help keep their spirits up. We all wore the same T-shirt, and we carried charity boxes, asking people on the way through if they’d care to donate. We’d planned to walk about 25 miles a day, from Henley to Windsor, Windsor to Richmond, and Richmond all the way to Thames Barrier, out East London.
I did not train. There were no long walks in the lead-up. Mostly we were busy with Kai and sorting the crazy that is our day-to-day. So when it came time – I bought a pair of fancy walking trousers and half a dozen pairs of merino socks from Amazon and called it good.
Day One was probably the easiest day – I was up at 5:45am, and caught a train out to Reading. My body had no idea what was coming, everyone was in good spirits, the weather was phenomenal. Because we hit our goal of £5k (!!) in donations, I did the first half of the day in a ridiculous gecko outfit. Everyone else thought it was hilarious, and were all delighted – except that it was hot, and I probably wasn’t drinking as much water as I should have. But the first 15 miles passed easily enough, we stopped for lunch, still happy, had a few beers.
When it came time, we shouldered on our packs for the rest of the walk. That’s when it got a bit harder. I had packed more than anyone else, and my pack was heavy – well over 10kgs. I ran out of water pretty quickly and my body was feeling it. By the time the team pulled into the pub and had stopped moving, I was dizzy, shaking and I’m embarrassed to say I vomited… Turns out eating a lot of protein snacks without drinking any water is a bad idea. When I called home from the hotel, I was having a tough time. I missed Elly and Kai. I was sore. My body hurt.
I’d covered 23 miles in a day. I had a cold bath for my feet/legs and a regular bath for the rest of my body, but man, was I still feeling it.
Day Two, my legs and feet felt good (thank goodness!) The baths and early night did their job. Everyone started out bright and early, feeling great and ready to go. The arrival of fresh faces and legs also kept our spirits up. One of our sponsors had given us a secret mission: getting photos outside the FM Global offices. It wasn’t on the trail, so before we set off Lewis and I dashed out to get it done before the party moved off. We managed it, but we were accosted by a rude security agent. Apparently not a fan of geckos! Secret mission completed – off we went!
It was a long way to lunch though, and the group didn’t stop until 14:30. That’s a long time to be walking, and we were feeling every mile – we must have covered at least 17 miles that morning! We were all hungry and ready for a sit-down. The pub we stopped at (The Red Lion) had a great outside area where boats could moor up. We sat outside, in the sun by the river. At this point, a number of people had very severe blisters and sore feet. We all pulled our socks off to administer some much-needed feet care. I was pretty smug, no blisters as yet!
It was also decided that I was probably more dehydrated than I thought – the gecko costume was HOT. I couldn’t keep walking in it without hurting myself, so I made the decision to switch out. While we were fundraising, there had been some talk about a bee costume, as the bee, thanks to its odd aerodynamic shape had become a symbol for NKH. Except I’m a grown manly, man. Gecko’s seemed more appropriate than a bee. As a joke, I’d picked up a bee costume when I got the gecko outfit – but it was meant for a small girl and came complete with an antenna headband, and sparkly gold wings.
Well, needs must, and it was lighter than the gecko costume, so on it went! I just managed to squeeze into it! (Elly sent me a message after I sent her a photo, telling me I was the prettiest bee there ever was!)
The afternoon wasn’t so bad – we’d gotten better at talking to people about why we were walking and asking for donations. Watching Lewis board a tourists boat shaking the collection tins made us laugh.
Toward the end of Day Two, we were still walking as the sun was going down. I’d fallen to the back of the group, trying to do video shout-outs for the people who had sponsored these miles – I wanted to get them done before the sun went down completely. Making our way into Richmond in darkness, lighting up the paths with our phones inbuilt torches – not ideal. It was straight out of the Blair Witch Project! We were exhausted, sore and walking in the dark those last few miles was so demoralising. It’s hard to keep going when it’s pitch black, the group was spread out along the trail and I was at the back, no idea where I was going. Spirits were low. My phone said I’d clocked over 30 miles today. Whaaaaat. It was such a struggle.
Eventually, I made it to the final pub for the day, plodding in looking like I was going to fall over. It was a shock to see Elly and Kai in the pub – they’d come out to surprise me! I was exhausted, emotional and quite dehydrated. Elly fussed (apparently I was shivering and pale, she missed the bit where I had to put my head between my knees to the floor to stave off the dizziness that came with being stationary). I felt better after eating, even more so after being plied with water and lemonade. I passed on the beer, I didn’t think I could manage it. That’s how sad and sore I was!
What a tough day. Over 30 miles were clocked on my phone pedometer – I couldn’t believe it. What stupidly long way to walk! Later, at the hotel, I managed another cold bath for my legs, and feet. I genuinely hoped they would not be so sore in the morning and I’d be able to continue. I know I wasn’t the only one – everyone was feeling the pain from such a long day.
The morning of Day Three wasn’t quite so cherry (the cold bath hadn’t worked quite as well as it had before – I still had stiff legs and sore feet). No blisters though, the fancy merino socks were working! After a good breakfast, some ibuprofen and lots of first aid on the feet (vaseline, baby powder, zinc oxide tape and sports strapping) we were ready to go. It helped that today was the last day, and I knew this time tomorrow I’d be at home with Elly and Kai. Only 27 miles to go.
Again, fresh faces and legs helped get the walk underway with high spirits and the group eventually made our way into the city. As we got closer in, Elly & Kai joined us at Hammersmith Bridge. I was very very glad to see them! I’d missed them, especially Kai. It made a difference to the group, having Kai join us. People in the group took turns pushing Kai’s buggy, and people collecting donations would point Kai out when talking about NKH and why we were walking.
Lunch was a too short affair – it was a nice day for a Sunday Lunch by the River. The pub plied us with drinks, and food and even made a donation (thanks, The Waterfront). We were all at the point familiar with the half day foot care routine. Everyone was changing socks, massaging feet, trying to ease the blister pain. I was sad to say goodbye to Elly and Kai and continue on.
But, my Uncle Rob joined us at Battersea Park. The second half of the day really began to take its toll. Everyone was feeling the distance. Even worse was that a mile 67, we were challenged by a sponsor to do 67 jumping jacks (Thanks, Sean!). It was a struggle, these last few miles. We were all in pain, and tired and really, just motivation became a real struggle. Some of our team even had to stop – I don’t blame them, it was such a tough walk.
As we hit further into the city, we had a fresh supply of new faces and legs join us – new people with their enthusiasm to keep on really kept us going. It really helped those of us who had walked miles and miles, keeping us on the track, putting one foot in front of the other. Getting into central London had its perks – there were lots of things to see, plenty of famous London landmarks (which thankfully made their way into the video shoutouts).
But the further we walked, past Southbank, St Pauls, the Globe, the Shard… the landmarks got few and far between, and the sun was setting. Walking in the dark is always the hardest – even worse was that we were now being blinded by car lights as we walked near the roads. Walking around Greenwich, there was an awful lot of construction going on. It had a very very different feel from the leafy path we’d left that morning.
We’d been walking hours and hours in the dark, and had just circumvented the O2 arena when Elly and Kai appeared! Elly had driven out to the Thames Barrier, but with us not being there had walked up the path to meet us. Good thing too, because those last two miles were killer. I’d long run out of water (Elly dived into a pub to refill my water bottle, she’s the best). Elly said later you could tell who had walked several days, and who had joined that day. I know my gait had changed, my whole body felt stiff, and my ankles were sore and swollen. I didn’t even want to contemplate the state of my feet.
That last mile felt never-ending. I was super focused, not really able to say much or interact – just concentrating on moving one foot in front of the other, getting to the end. When we finally, finally reached the end – I was relieved. Everyone cheered, and there were tears too. I was pretty emotional. I couldn’t believe we’d done it, no training – just straight walked 78 miles. Possibly the stupidest thing I’d ever asked my body to do, but there you go.
It was worth it, for the money we raised for NKH Research, for Kai. We raised just under £9000 pounds. I couldn’t believe it, really. It made every step worth it.
If you’re interested in donating, the justgiving campaign is still open. Go on – tip us over the £9000 mark.
I want to say thank you to everyone. Thank you to Paul, for organising the walk and walking the whole way with me. Thank you to all the walkers who joined us, to Naomi, Marion, Lewis, Soph and Caroline for doing the hard yards. I know I’m not naming everyone (there are so many people I want to thank!) but to all the BVers, friends and family who walked with us – we really couldn’t have done it without you keeping our spirits up.
Thank you to everyone who donated, to everyone who sponsored a mile, everyone from BV Austin who donated, to the shout out at the Gong, thank you. To all the strangers on the trail who donated into the Collection Tins, or took a card to follow Kai’s story – you’re amazing. Thank you. To all the pubs who gave us a place to rest and put our feet up, to Elly for telling me to buy merino wool socks (and thus saving my feet from all the potential blisters!).
Thank you to everyone who followed the walk. I’m so humbled. Thank you.
I’m proud that I managed to finish the entire 78 miles but even more proud of the money we raised and the difference it will make to NKH research.
So yes, 78 miles. Done!